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Drinking Buddies

December 8, 2013

Drinking Buddies movie poster

Drinking Buddies tells the tale of friendship, beer and lack of ambition. It is a well thought out and executed slice of life that has a lot going on under the surface. I’d compare it to the wonderful beer Innis & Gunn because it is unique, layered and thoroughly enjoyable

It is hard to characterize Drinking Buddies and I like that. It isn’t a romantic comedy or a stereotypical mumblecore film. It is an evolution of both and will certainly not sit well with people looking looking for Friends With Benefits 2. The word “mumblecore” has been thrown around a lot in the reviews for Drinking Buddies. Mumblecore is characterized by low budgets, naturalistic improvisational performances and novice actors. The films are usually shot on digital and the sets are scarce. Drinking Buddies may have the low-budget and naturalistic vibe but it would be a shame to simply categorize it as mumblecore. It is well thought out and that is evident in the way scenes play out.

The film may have an improvisational feel but director Joe Swanberg had 45 pages outlined and had a clear idea of the things that make his characters tick. He describes his directing choices in an interview with Sag Harbor Express:

 Silence is big for me. The most directing I do on set is reminding actors that they don’t have to talk all the time. When a camera and lights are pointed at them, I think that there’s a natural instinct for actors to be on, and fill that space. But in regular conversation, there’s quite a bit of listening that happens, and there’s quite a bit of thinking that happens in between something being said to you and your response to it–at least in my conversations.

The movie focuses on Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson who work at a Chicago brewery. They are close friends who seem like kindred spirits. They eat lunch together at work, go on double dates, drink lots of beer and both are incredibly selfish. They have a naturalism together that is evident in the quiet moments where they probably get a little too close to each other.

Jake Johnson’s character prefers drinking beer to talking about marrying his girlfriend. Olivia Wilde is a whirlwind who does her own thing to her own detriment. Jake lives with his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) who keeps a nice apartment and respects his love of beer. Wilde’s apartment looks like a trash bomb went off and she spends the majority of her nights at her boyfriends tidy apartment. Both of them will figure things out but they’ll need catalysts to grow up.

There are several moments that show Drinking Buddies is more than an indie experiment of improvisation.  For instance, Ron Livingston gives Olivia Wilde a copy of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run. The central character of the book flees when things get too serious. Also, the way Wilde reacts to compliments of her brewery party differ as she talks to friends, acquaintances and her boyfriend. The characters are all self aware but too wrapped up in their own lives to focus on what matters. They live a life where they don’t have to grow up and it shows.

Drinking Buddies is a unique take on male/female friendship that captures the late twenties/early thirties mind set that adults have today. Swanberg’s drinking gamble paid off as Tarantino placed it on his top ten (so far) of the year and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 82%.

Watch Drinking Buddies. Enjoy Drinking Buddies. Do not try to drink as much as they do.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2013 11:32 pm

    It was one of those flicks where I could have listened to these people just all talk for even longer than two hours, and I still would have never been bored or annoyed with them. Just about everybody in this thing is likable, and even if they aren’t, at least they’re believable. Good review.

    • December 10, 2013 11:33 pm

      Thanks! Jake Johnson is one of my favorite actors. I felt the same way.

      • December 10, 2013 11:39 pm

        Johnson was great here! And that chemistry he had with Wilde, made me actually wonder if they went for a couple of cold ones after shooting wrapped up.

      • December 10, 2013 11:41 pm

        Method acting! Wilde surprised me as well. I read most of their stuff was improvised.

      • December 10, 2013 11:44 pm

        No surprise whatsoever. After all, it is directed by Joe Swanberg, king and legend of the “mumblecore movement” that’s grown on me in the past couple of months.

  2. January 3, 2014 11:25 pm

    I keep hearing about this movie but I never had much of a chance to watch it. I may just do so after reading your review. Its very interesting to read that it was mostly improvised. I do like the cast involved

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